Camping & the Apocalypse

I am a fan of the apocalyptic genre. I don’t read or watch it exclusively, but this has been a summer of reading and watching rather a lot of it. Need proof? Over these short summer months, I have binge-watched The Last ShipContainmentSurvivors, Fringe, 12 Monkeys, Primeval: New World, and Zoo. I recently began reading Station Eleven since one of my friends suggested it based on my like of the aforementioned binged show Survivors. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, our family read-aloud has been Battlefield Earth, a quasi post-apocalyptic gem. Needless to say, it’s been a rough summer of near-annihilation for the human race all within the confines of my own head!

I share this about myself to help you understand my doomsday mindset while we were recently on our annual Labor Day Weekend Campout with our youngest kids in the breathtaking panhandle canyons of northwest Texas.

This naturally made crevice in the rock was much explored by the other members of my family during our recent visit to Palo Duro Canyons State Park. Climbing to, in, through, and on it was a highlight of our trip!
This naturally made crevice in the rock was much explored during our recent visit to Palo Duro Canyons State Park. Climbing to, in, through, and on it was a highlight of our trip!
I ventured about this close to it. My cowardice won and I stayed behind while the family explored the nooks and crannies with other brave hikers that day.
The family explored the nooks and crannies of this magnificent fortress in the cliffs.
Simon and the kids couldn't resist climbing down into a ravine and then through this natural "tunnel" under our hiking trail. If you look closely, you can see Simon's head in the center for scale.
Simon and the kids couldn’t resist climbing down into a ravine and then through this natural “tunnel” under our hiking trail. If you look closely, you can see Simon’s head in the center for scale. While they were exploring, they talked about making a Western in which the hero used a place such as this as his hideout.

With a mixture of both imagined images (due to my favored genre of late) and real images (due to my current locale) floating through my mind, I was primed with a mental slideshow as I read these Words early one morning –

Enter into the rock
    and hide in the dust
from before the terror of the Lord,
    and from the splendor of his majesty.” Is 2:10

“And people shall enter the caves of the rocks
    and the holes of the ground,[b]
from before the terror of the Lord,
    and from the splendor of his majesty,
    when he rises to terrify the earth.” Is 2:19

“to enter the caverns of the rocks
    and the clefts of the cliffs,
from before the terror of the Lord,
    and from the splendor of his majesty,
    when he rises to terrify the earth.” Is 2:21

As you can imagine, these words & images reverberated through my apocalyptic mind all day long as we hiked and explored the caverns! Later, I went back and reread Isaiah 2, which I admit was rather discouraging the first time through, and that time God illuminated the {more encouraging} beginning of the chapter –

“and many peoples shall come, and say:                                             Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.’ ” Is 2:3

Where am I going with this? Too many times I stumble on the negative. My mind dwells on the half-empty glass. I focus on the fears. I cry out in despair when the Lord doesn’t move the mountains I want Him to move or part the waters I wish I could walk through. And yet, His purpose for me isn’t to make my journey easy or smooth, but worth the effort, worth the struggle. As I go to Him each time I face a mountain or have to cross a sea, He teaches me more of His ways and I learn to walk in His paths.

What about you? What obstacles is the Lord eagerly waiting to teach you His ways as you walk His path with Him?

In the Light

“I want to be in the Light
As You are in the Light
I want to shine like the stars in the heavens
Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
Cause all I want is to be in the Light
All I want is to be in the Light.”

In the Light by dcTalk

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Morning One – I helped Jesse get his kayak and gear into the water, turned right and was treated to this spectacular sunrise.
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Morning Two – En route to the fishing spot Jesse had selected, we saw this spectacular sunrise. Though it looks like the sun rising from an African savannah, it is actually over the still-dark canyon behind our campsite.
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Morning Three – Unobscured by nearby trees, the sunrise was blindingly bright and beautiful at this morning’s fishing spot.

 

 

In recent years, we have started a new tradition of taking the younger kids camping over the extended Labor Day weekend. It is a much-anticipated time of getting away from the busyness of our life in the city to enjoy the slower pace of an unplugged, back-to-the-basics existence. This year, we headed to the canyons hidden within the panhandle of Texas.

A true angler, Jesse woke at the crack of dawn to fish each morning. I served as his chauffeur, being a morning person myself, and we left the night owl to enjoy his slumber a little longer.

While Jesse tempted the occupants of Lake Theo with his tasty bait each morning, I spent my time walking with the Lord through His Word. On the second morning just after the sun had crested the canyon, I read,

“Light is sweet, and it is pleasant                              for the eyes to see the sun.” Ecc. 11:7

That verse struck me in a completely new way that morning. While I love camping, love the family togetherness, love seeing new sights, love getting back to the basics, love cooking over a campfire, etc., I do not love bugs and creepy-crawly things. In my head, the dark belongs to the evil creepy-crawly things. For this reason, I greet the morning light as eagerly as our resident angler. For fishermen like Jesse, light IS sweet. It IS pleasant for the eyes to see the sun because that’s prime time for catching.

Something to Ponder: As a child of God living in a dark world where the enemy is creeping and crawling around seeking whom he may devour, do I shine? To the eyes of the fallen who desperately need to see the Son, am I a beacon of His light? 

Smith Family Camp Out – September 2016

As one friend commented, "you have good knights - in shorts!" And we did! Simon and Jesse set up our camp perfectly while Chloe & I reclined in the tent on air mattresses.
As one friend commented, “you have good knights – in shorts!” And we did! Simon and Jesse set up our camp perfectly while Chloe & I reclined in the tent on air mattresses.
Our sweet home away from home for 5 glorious days at Caprock Canyons State Park. Chloe and I sold everything we could get our hands on from the garage to buy a big 3-room tent and two oscillating fans. It was worth it!
Our sweet home away from home for 5 glorious days at Caprock Canyons State Park. Chloe and I sold everything we could get our hands on from the garage to buy a big 3-room tent and two oscillating fans. It was worth it!
Sunrise and sunset were my favorite times of day...so beautiful. So peaceful. What an awesome experience to walk with God in His beautiful creation during these times of the day.
Sunrise and sunset were my favorite times of day…so beautiful. So peaceful. What an awesome experience to walk with God in His beautiful creation during these times of the day.

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After setting up camp, Jesse walked down to Lake Theo and began catching (and releasing) these little guys. He is an angler to the core.
After setting up camp, Jesse walked down to Lake Theo and began catching (and releasing) these little guys. He is an angler to the core.
(deep, contented sigh...muscles relaxing...soaking in God's presence)
(deep, contented sigh…muscles relaxing…soaking in God’s presence)
I looked up from my Bible to this sweet sight - my boy on the lake, early morning, fishing in his kayak that he saved and bought off Craigslist.
I looked up from my Bible to this sweet sight – my boy on the lake, early morning, fishing in his kayak that he saved and bought off Craigslist.
I discovered how to use the panorama feature on my iPhone this trip. LOVE this feature!
I discovered how to use the panorama feature on my iPhone this trip. LOVE this feature! This is a panorama of our campsite. It is the most private, spacious campsite we’ve ever had! Seemed like we were the only ones around!
Raccoon (whom we named "Oscar" because of his location) stuck in the dump, so he decided to take a nap. Someone put a log in there for him to climb out on and he was gone by evening.
Raccoon (whom we named “Oscar” because of his location) stuck in the dump, so he decided to take a nap. Someone put a log in there for him to climb out on and he was gone by evening.
Saturday - Palo Duro Canyons State Park was breathtaking! It is the second largest canyon in the U.S. We explored it's nooks and crannies all day.
Saturday – Palo Duro Canyons State Park was breathtaking! It is the second largest canyon in the U.S. We explored it’s nooks and crannies all day.

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Spent a LONG time here, hiking in/out/over that cave.
Spent a LONG time here, hiking in/out/over that cave.
Can you spy Simon and Chloe?
Can you spy Simon and Chloe?
Great memory-making day exploring God's magnificent creation.
Great memory-making day exploring God’s magnificent creation.
It was mesmerizing watching Jesse fish with his net for bait fish. I took wayyyyyy too many photos for a sane person, but come on...it's poetry in motion.
It was mesmerizing watching Jesse fish with his net for bait fish. I took wayyyyyy too many photos for a sane person, but come on…it’s poetry in motion.

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Spent the day at Copper Breaks State Park. Unanimously, we do not recommend this park. This shot reminds me of Huck Finn, so I thought I'd share it.
Spent the day at Copper Breaks State Park. Unanimously, we do not recommend this park. This shot reminds me of Huck Finn, so I thought I’d share it.
On our way out, we did enjoy some time with some longhorns the park keeps.
On our way out, we did enjoy some time with some longhorns the park keeps.
The second of MANY upclose and personal encounters with the bison herd back at Caprock Canyons State Park. This pic is taken through the open door of our Suburban. He's not even a really big one, either!
The second of MANY up close and personal encounters with the bison herd back at Caprock Canyons State Park. This pic is taken through the open door of our Suburban. He’s not even a really big one, either!
Ribs and salad kind of night...yum!
Ribs and salad kind of night…yum!
Another early morning on the lake with Jesse as he enjoys his favorite past time.
Another early morning on the lake with Jesse as he enjoys his favorite past time.
As our vacation progressed, our interactions became closer and closer with the resident bison herd. They were around every corner, literally.
As our vacation progressed, our interactions became closer and closer with the resident bison herd. They were around every corner, literally.
This was the day we explored every nook and cranny we could at Caprock Canyons State Park. I cannot state clearly enough how you should visit this gem of a state park. It is beautiful. It is clean. The weather is COOL, believe it or not. The campsites are PRIVATE and it is hands-down our favorite campground to date.
This was the day we explored every nook and cranny we could at Caprock Canyons State Park. I cannot state clearly enough how you should visit this gem of a state park. It is beautiful. It is clean. The weather is COOL, believe it or not. The campsites are PRIVATE and it is hands-down our favorite campground to date.
Fun with panorama selfies! Can you see all of us?
Fun with panorama selfies! Can you see all of us?
That blue sky...
That blue sky…
This is right before we discovered Cedar Flies...and their tenacity...and the fact that they bite...hard. This is the canyon behind our camp site.
This is right before we discovered Cedar Flies…and their tenacity…and the fact that they bite…hard. This is the canyon behind our camp site.

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LOVE this shot of the three of them watching the bird flying high above the canyon.
LOVE this shot of the three of them watching the bird flying high above the canyon.
Simon and Jesse heading out on a 2 mile trail. Chloe and I picked them up on the opposite side.
Simon and Jesse heading out on a 2 mile trail. Chloe and I picked them up on the opposite side.
This is what Chloe and I did while the guys were hiking...
This is what Chloe and I did while the guys were hiking…

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...and they are back!
…and they are back!

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The photos just don't convey the vastness, the depth, the beauty of Caprock Canyons SP.
The photos just don’t convey the vastness, the depth, the beauty of Caprock Canyons SP.
The guys loved the 2-mile trail so much they took us back on it. We discovered a great natural bridge/tunnel. Obviously, it needed to be explored.
The guys loved the 2-mile trail so much they took us back on it. We discovered a great natural bridge/tunnel. Obviously, it needed to be explored.

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Sunsets were a daily ritual for us and so breathtaking.
Sunsets were a daily ritual for us and so breathtaking.
Last night - (decaf) coffee before bed for this modern-day knight of mine.
Last night – (decaf) coffee before bed for this modern-day knight of mine.
En route home, we stopped at a fourth state park (gotta love those state park passes, right?).
En route home, we stopped at a fourth state park (gotta love those state park passes, right?).
The guys fished while Chloe and I played Rummy and Whist in the Suburban. This place boasts a prairie dog town, but Simon said it was more like an infestation. We all agreed.
The guys fished while Chloe and I played Rummy and Whist in the Suburban. This place boasts a prairie dog town, but Simon said it was more like an infestation. We all agreed.
Brave. Boy. I shudder to imagine how many snakes are in there with Jesse, but he's a wild-at-heart kind of manling like his dad, so...
Brave. Boy. I shudder to imagine how many snakes are in there with Jesse, but he’s a wild-at-heart kind of manling like his dad, so…
Bonus - Jesse asked if he could make dinner when we got back, so he used stuff on hand (plus some kale I went to buy) and made this ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS SOUP from scratch! It's his own creation, people. He's 16!
Bonus – Jesse asked if he could make dinner when we got back, so he used stuff on hand (plus some kale I went to buy) and made this ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS SOUP from scratch! It’s his own creation, people. He’s 16!

An Issue of Trust

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. – Proverbs 19:21

I’m a planner. I delight in planning memory-making times for others. Upcoming big events, family vacations, get-togethers, parties – just the mere thought of getting to plan, to control these special times from start to finish, truly floats my boat. I’m also a planner of another kind – constantly planning scenarios and running through possibilities in preparation for a time when life will take an unexpected left turn. If I have already run through the scenario, it can’t catch me unawares when it comes to pass, I think. I have already thought through all the possibilities. In essence, I shoo Jesus off the throne of my life while I try to order things according to my plans, which indicates a lack of trust in the only One that truly has control. It’s a self-preservation way of thinking that stems from my lack of wholehearted trust in God.

PONDER: What circumstances are you facing in which you struggle between truly trusting God and attempting to control the situation? Are you ready to trust Him wholeheartedly?

PRAYER: Father, I confess the tendency in my heart to want to rule myself, to take control and run things according to my own understanding. This is, at its core, an issue of trust. Please forgive my lack of trust and help me in my situation to fully trust You to lead me, to direct my path.

Meet Martha of Bethany

He Qi's "Martha & Mary" in The Life of Jesus series is available here.
He Qi’s “Martha & Mary” in The Life of Jesus series is available here.

Martha, Martha…

I have known both Mary & Martha all of my life. I have always thought of Martha as the poor, misunderstood, responsible sister of the lazy, irresponsible Mary. I always felt that I could relate to Martha, that I understood where she was coming from in doing all the necessary things one does when one offers hospitality. I “got” her irritation with Mary, who was just sitting there doing nothing. I felt the sting of Jesus’ words as if He’d spoken them to me when He gently chastised her and praised lazy Mary.

After spending a week with Mary, connecting with and understanding her like I never have before, my entire perception of her changed. And I mean completely and utterly changed. I wondered if I’d had it wrong all these years where Martha was concerned, as well, so I asked Martha for some one-on-one time and she graciously invited me to spend a week with her in Bethany.

I still share a lot of commonalities with Martha. I have a do-er personality. I have a keen sense of duty, of doing the “right” thing (even if it is too often accompanied with the wrong attitude). I get upset with others when they don’t do what I think they should. My sense of justice oftentimes leads me to ask the Lord to make things right when I feel I’ve been wronged by someone, to take my grievance directly to Him.

Against the newly painted backdrop of her sister, Martha’s shortcomings (and my own!) shine brighter than before. But like the saying goes, We learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. (Can I get an “Amen!”?) And tucked amid all of the character flaws that we share, Martha displayed something that I feel shamefully lacking in my own life – a beautiful, teachable heart.

Listening to her testimony again, I realized that Martha didn’t repeat the same mistake twice. I want to have such a teachable heart! I want to receive His Words to me and have them “stick” like that. I want to respond to His chastening as quickly and wholeheartedly as Martha did. I want to be sensitive to His teaching. I want to be changed by obeying His Word. I want to share that positive character trait with Martha, as well.

If your heart desires the same, I invite you to visit Martha in Bethany this week. Click here to spend some one-on-one time with Martha of Bethany.








 

Meet Mary of Bethany

John Forte's "Annointing His Feet #2" can be found here.
John Forte’s “Annointing His Feet #2” can be found here.

I know, I know. Last week I was confessing that there were too many Marys in the Bible to keep them all straight and yet, here I go introducing another. Stick with me, though.

Mary of Bethany is someone I’ve known all of my life, but I felt like I had more in common with her sister than I did with her. Maybe its because I have this thing about feet and she always seemed to be about the feet. I don’t know. With half-hearted enthusiasm, I reached out to Mary of Bethany earlier this year and was surprised to find that we not only connected in a couple of ways, but she has since become a woman I deeply admire and want to be like.

You see, I’ve always had this prejudice where Mary was concerned, this judgment of her as the lazy sister, leaving her sister to pick up the slack while she did her own thing. The more time I spent with Mary, however, and the more attentive to her testimony I became, the more I saw her in a new light – as an example of a female disciple. Jesus called His male disciples to leave their work and follow Him. I saw clearly for the first time that this was what Mary was doing, as well. I became ashamed at how I had always viewed her, leaving all the work to her poor, burdened, responsible sister, Martha, when what she was actually doing was following Him, just as His male disciples were. And she was praised for her choice.

If you’ve held off on getting to know Mary of Bethany, let this be the week you decide to invest in that relationship. She’s not your average Mary. And she is about so much more than just feet.

Click here to meet my new friend, Mary of Bethany.








 

Meet Mary Magdalene

"Mary Magdalene," stained glass from St. Kilian’s Church in Sülzbach, Germany (Photo by Peter Schmelzle)
“Mary Magdalene,” stained glass from St. Kilian’s Church in Sülzbach, Germany
(Photo by Peter Schmelzle)

I’m just going to go ahead and admit that I’ve never given Mary Magdalene a second thought. If I met her as a kid, I don’t remember it. If we were introduced sometime in college, I’ve forgotten. The truth is that, for me, Mary Magdalene always got lost amid the throng of other Marys in the Bible.

Recently that all changed and I confess that I’m glad I took the time to get to know her more personally. I found Mary Magdalene to be someone perfectly content to live in the background, serving in the shadows of the spotlights cast by her friends. (Truthfully, this is the first thing we connected over as I feel most comfortable serving behind-the-scenes, as well.) As Mary shared her story with me, I perceived a deep level of loyalty to those she called friend – a trait I value highly in my own friends. By the end of our week together, we wept with one another over the loss of loved ones that were so dear to our hearts that it felt like just breathing was an effort. We connected over the intense need we felt to do something for those we’d lost in the wake of their deaths.

Truthfully, I feel I have found a real gem of a friend in Mary Magdalene, a real kindred spirit and soul sister.

And I invite you to get to know her, as well.








 

 

Meet Esther

"Esther" by John Everett Millais
“Esther” by English Painter/Illustrator John Everett Millais, 1865

I first met Esther as a kid. At my church, she was always talked up to us girls, heralded as a real role model. And why not? Esther was a woman of remarkable beauty and she had the brains to match. I looked up to her throughout my childhood. Unfortunately, as the years of my childhood faded, so did our acquaintance.

I decided to reconnect with Esther last summer, initiating some one-on-one time with my childhood hero.  I was encouraged by this {still} beautiful and remarkably faithful woman of God. I think the three areas that Esther encouraged me most to grow in were:

Social Grace – I find it terribly hard to deal in awkward social situations and Esther is savvy in a way I aspire to be. She is not conniving, but understands that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Fear Factor – I suffer from a plethora of fears, but none so great as what Esther and her people faced from evil Haman. Esther taught me to walk forward even though I am afraid; to walk one step at a time, trusting God with the outcome.

Prayerful Processing – I am a “doer” personality. Often this translates to moving forward before prayerfully processing situations. Esther, on the other hand, turned to God in prayer and fasting for three days before moving forward regarding Haman’s evil scheme.

Esther is looking forward to getting together with you this week. She has a wealth of wisdom & insight to share with you, too. Click here to meet my friend and personal hero, Esther.








 

 

Meet Naomi

Simeon Solomon's "Naomi and the Child Obed" 1881 wood engraving was scanned by Simon Cook. You can see more of Simeon Solomon's Bible illustrations here.
Simeon Solomon’s “Naomi and the Child Obed” 1881 wood engraving was scanned by Simon Cook. You can see more of Simeon Solomon’s Bible illustrations here.

Naomi is one of those women that you know of, but have never really known. Because of her more famous daughter-in-love Ruth, the spotlight has always just missed her. About three years ago at a Women’s Bible Study, that all changed for me. I connected with Naomi over the fact that we had both endured the unspeakable – the burial of our children. This is a club few are in and none want to belong to; when you come across other members, you tend to gravitate toward them. That semester was eye-opening for me as Naomi (with Ruth) shared her heart, hurts, and healing with our group.

I reconnected with Naomi last summer for a week and I learned even more from this wonderfully pleasant woman of God. Through her losses, Naomi remained rooted in the knowledge that God is sovereign. She is the first to confess that her losses weren’t easy to endure. (She actually renamed herself “Mara” for a time, which translates bitter.) Her grief was often ugly! Her faith in His sovereignty wasn’t rooted in her feelings, however, as mine tend to be. For Naomi, His sovereign control was a firm & unwavering fact. She knew (with the great Patriarch of her faith, Job) that God gives and God takes away. He is sovereign in the giving and He is still sovereign in the taking away.

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21 (NASB)

I invite you to spend some time with Naomi this week. She is a woman who has journeyed through the valley of the shadow of death many times. Because of that, she is uniquely qualified to lead you as you learn to trust in His sovereignty through your own valleys.








 

Meet Bathsheba

"Bath-Sheba" by quilt artist Dolores Fegan. See more of her Women of the Bible quilts here.
“Bath-Sheba” by quilt artist Dolores Fegan. See more of her Women of the Bible quilts here.

Like some of you, I’ve heard of Bathsheba most of my life. It’s hard not to, having grown up in the church. Her name was mentioned now and again in association with the great King David, but it was always in passing.

When I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with her last summer, I was admittedly lukewarm. And I confess that she was kind of hard to get to know. It took more work to peel back the layers than all of the other ladies I’d gotten to know. She proved less transparent than Rahab, less of a role-model than Deborah, less of a leader than Miriam. My diligence, however, paid off and I was rewarded to find that I connected in so many ways with this woman renown for her beauty:

  • as a fellow mother of five;
  • as a parent that has known the deep grief of burying a child;
  • as a woman desired (thanks to my husband!);
  • as a mom with deep desires to see her grown children realize their full potential (and occasionally messes up by meddling in their affairs);
  • as someone who looks at herself soberly; and
  • as a {repentant} sinner.

It was good to see that I shared these connections with Bathsheba because she is one of those women that are known more for her failures than for her successes. That’s unfortunate, too, because most of my own growth as a follower of God has occurred in the wake of my own {colossal} failures and I sensed the same rang true for Bathsheba as she shared her story with me. As she shared, I was intrigued by her ability not to become mired to her failures because I tend to get stuck in the moments. I obsess about every detail and find it very difficult to crawl out of those moments and move forward.

Bathsheba doesn’t deny that her sin altered the course of her life, or that people were hurt by her choices. They were, and probably none more than her first husband, Uriah. That moment of failure, however, wasn’t wasted. She grew from having endured the hardship of widowhood, guilt and even the death of her son. I think she learned from her mistakes. And God, in seeing that, used her to bless the known world (through her son, King Solomon, in her lifetime), and the entire world (through Jesus Christ, her direct descendant).

Bathsheba is an encouragement to me to live in light of Paul’s words to the New Testament believers in Philippi –

“…forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God.” (Phil. 3:13-14 NET)

I invite you to make your own connections with my new friend, Bathsheba, by going here.